International Mountain Day
Mountains are an important source of water, energy and biological diversity. Furthermore, they are a source of such key resources as minerals, forest products and agricultural products and of recreation. In Agenda 21 - a 40-chapter statement of goals and potential programmes produced by delegates at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, known as the Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro - chapter 13 was devoted to mountains (Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development).
Two programme areas are included in this chapter to further elaborate the problem of fragile ecosystems with regard to all mountains of the world. These are: 1. Generating and strengthening knowledge about the ecology and sustainable development of mountain ecosystems; 2. Promoting integrated watershed development and alternative livelihood opportunities.
Watersheds are drainage or catchment areas where fresh mountain water gathers and flows downstream to feed rivers and lakes, before running into the ocean. More than half of the world's population depends directly on these mountain watersheds for water to grow food, generate energy and, most importantly, to drink.
FAO is meeting the challenges of sustainable mountain development and watershed management in many ways around the world. The scope of FAO's work in mountains and watersheds is broad and extensive. Across its technical departments FAO is addressing the needs of mountain people and mountain environments through its normative work, field programme, direct country support and contribution to global partnerships.